26 February 2011

Cirque du Soleil's Totem at the Royal Albert Hall

I was obviously aware of Cirque du Soleil but somehow had not managed to get to a show before so when a ticket offer came up at work I took the opportunity.

Somehow I had also managed to miss the Royal Albert Hall since Paul Weller's Live Wood tour way back in 1993 so this was also an opportunity to renew acquaintances.

It was an after work event so the first priority was to find some food. The Hoop and Toy was far too busy, and the beer was not up to much either, so I headed round the corner to Sole Luna for an imaginative choice of a Fiorentina Pizza and a glass of wine that did the job.

Queen Victoria inconveniently built the Royal Albert Hall as some distance from any tube station so it was a lazy shuttle bus from South Ken to the venue that was already surrounded by then as people queued up at the various entrances that ring the building.

I had completely forgotten what the RAH looked like from the inside so I took a photo of it!

The RAH was the steep sides of an opera house with some stall seating sweeping towards the middle where the centre is hollowed out according to the needs of the show. This night it was a high stage for circus.

Clustered almost randomly around the stage were some other seats, just normal chairs placed there to fill the gaps, and I was in one of those with a good close-up view of the performance.

The little that I knew about Cirque du Soleil was that it was an old circus (sans animals) with a lot of emphasis on the presentation. Brash Las Vegas comes to genteel Knigtsbridge.

And that's rather what we got.

The Totem website makes claims that it was inspired by founding myths and traces the journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly but while that may have been the excuse for the linking pieces and some of the costumes the theme was, in all honesty, irrelevant to the proceedings.

The series of acts that we presented with were mostly familiar circus acts delivered with some style.

Some of the acts were more familiar than other and despite not having seen many circus acts before I was surprised at just home familiar they were. So while they were done well there was little to get excited about with the Chinese unicyclists, balancing pole or the foot jugglers. They all lacked the wow factor.

The second half was a lot better for me and three acts really stood out. First there were the roller skaters spinning quickly and wildly within a small circle and then the juggler who started normally but then moved in to an inverted cone and the act transformed in to something really special.

Last up was the Russian Bar, a cross between a trampoline and a balancing act that threw the performers high in to the air expecting them to land on a bendy plank. Somehow they did to the surprise and delight of an enthralled audience.

The whiz-bang finished helped to compensate for some of the formulaic acts that had gone before and lifted the evened overall from average to good. But not quite good enough to make me think about going back to see it again.

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